Apple's new MacBook Pro is pretty and powerful. But with the laptop debuting at $1,999, is it right for you?

·5 min read

Yes, Apple's new MacBook Pro notebooks are impressive.

Their 14.2-inch and 16.2-inch mini-LED-based displays elegantly reproduce images, video and graphics with eye-popping contrast and colors.

Programs zip thanks to Apple's lauded new processors, the M1 Pro and M1 Pro Max chips, which outperform the M1 chip introduced last year in the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini, and in the iMacs unveiled in May.

And the latest MacBook Pro computers, which become available Tuesday, have more connections than last year's 13-inch MacBook Pro – with the return of a slot for SD memory cards, and ports for HDMI and the magnetic charger – plus improved battery life for users on the go, up to 21 hours of video on a charge on the 16-inch model and 17 hours on the 14-inch model.

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By now you are likely asking yourself: Do I truly need a screaming new MacBook Pro? The answer for me – as a words person and a YouTube and music streamer – is that these new powerful notebooks probably have more horsepower than I need.

Apple's new 16- and 14-inch MacBook Pro models become available Oct. 26. The 14-inch display will start at $1,999, while the 16-inch display starts at $2,499 (lower entry prices for educational use).
Apple's new 16- and 14-inch MacBook Pro models become available Oct. 26. The 14-inch display will start at $1,999, while the 16-inch display starts at $2,499 (lower entry prices for educational use).

The new MacBook Pros are made for those who actually create the media: artists, developers, photographers, and video and music producers.

To spring for a MacBook Pro like the 14-inch model lent to me by Apple to review would cost about $2,900. The 14-inch models start at $1,999 and the 16-inch models at $2,499. But a fully decked-out 16-inch MacBook Pro can cost more than $6,000.

Photographers, music and video producers, programmers and artists will benefit, Apple says, from the MacBook Pro notebooks' faster processing power.
Photographers, music and video producers, programmers and artists will benefit, Apple says, from the MacBook Pro notebooks' faster processing power.

On the Apple site, orders will be delivered by mid-November, but those who want a laptop with the M1 Max chip may have to wait until early December for delivery.

Does that mean the humble writer shouldn't test-drive and consider them? Absolutely not.

What the new MacBook Pro can do

Apple touts its new notebooks as delivering the power of high-powered PC desktops in a portable.

I liked the 14-inch MacBook Pro's sturdy feel, with more defined edges than the rounded ones on previous models. Weighing in at 3.5 pounds, the laptop had just enough heft. The 16-inch model (not tested) weighs 4.7 pounds.

To show off the MacBook Pros' prowess, the company loaded a collection of high-end programs on the notebook it provided.

Photo editors view pristine images on the MacBook Pro notebooks and effects are applied quicker by the computers' speedier processing powers.
Photo editors view pristine images on the MacBook Pro notebooks and effects are applied quicker by the computers' speedier processing powers.

Images within Affinity Photo editing software looked vivid and almost 3D. Pictures could be input and adjusted speedily. In Cinema 4D animation software, lighting and shading on a 3D model could be adjusted with changes appearing immediately.

Four separate 8K video windows flowed smoothly in Final Cut Pro and moved fluidly in the editing window when the cursor was moved along the editing line. Apple demoed seven 8K video streams in a briefing to reviewers. In that same briefing, Apple showed how game developers could simultaneously test their new creations on eight different simulators of platforms – such as iPhone 13, iPhone 11 and iPod touch – using the Xcode app programming suite.

Apple demonstrated how the MacBook Pro could handle seven 8K video streams at the same time in a briefing to reviewers.
Apple demonstrated how the MacBook Pro could handle seven 8K video streams at the same time in a briefing to reviewers.

You could scroll effortlessly through more than 1,500 separate instrumental tracks within an orchestral performance in the digital audio program Logic Pro. A lo-fi option showed how a musician could record their songs using just the MacBook Pro's built-in three-microphone array.

Apple says its new chips, the M1 Pro and M1 Max, which promise up to 70% more processing power than its M1 chip, allow for these levels of on-the-go creativity. The M1 Pro's graphic processor is up to two times faster than that of the M1; the M1 Max, up to four times, Apple says. And the chips' added memory bandwidth lets more processes happen faster and more efficiently.

Day in, day out with the MacBook Pro

But these higher-end programs are far above my punching weight. So I put the laptop through the paces on some of my regular computing chores.

The keyboard felt solid while writing using our content creation system. Web pages flowed like butter. I called up "The Best Rolling Stones Songs, Ranked" on pop culture site Uproxx. The list of 100 songs, with 80 or more YouTube clips embedded along with the descriptions, constantly crashed on my nearly 8-year-old iPad Air. But no problem here.

The keyboard in the new MacBook Pro laptops has traditional function keys and Touch ID.
The keyboard in the new MacBook Pro laptops has traditional function keys and Touch ID.

Speaking of music, the MacBook Pro produces a surround-like soundscape with its six-speaker system. Of course, there's a headphone jack, too, for personal music listening.

I'm sure director Denis Villeneuve wouldn't approve, but I watched some of "Dune" on the MacBook Pro. The spectacular settings and special effects popped, while Hans Zimmer's deep-rooted soundtrack pulsated. It's not home theater, but certainly makes a handy second screen.

I also downloaded the video game Hades to the MacBook Pro and the colorful dungeon adventure game looked and sounded superb. To record a podcast using the Audacity audio editing program, I connected my Blue microphone (with headphones connected) to the laptop with an adapter to one of its two Thunderbolt 4 jacks. The laptop's new HD camera, with improved video in low-light conditions looked sharp while chatting on Zoom, too.

The MacBook Pro handled all these tasks quickly and quietly. It has improved fans and needs less cooling due to the more energy-efficient chips, Apple says.

For now, the MacBook Pro may surpass my creative needs, but it's good to know it's out there.

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Apple MacBook Pro review: 2021 laptops loaded with plenty of power

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